From the top · 7 June 2018

Would you call a potential customer “Miss China”? YO! Sushi founder’s PR gaffe revealed

Founder of YO! Sushi, Simon Woodroffe

A recent PR gaffe from YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe raised a few eyebrows and even more questions. Here, we take a look at the most controversial PR blunders by well-known brands and the impact this may have had on their bottom line.

Business Advice was on-site at one of the UK’s biggest business events last month, and what was meant to be an inspiring keynote turned sour when one of retail’s most recognisable faces, YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe, took a question from a female audience member.

Business Advice captured the audio – listen below

Woodroffe addressed her as “Miss China here”. When the woman tried to point out her actual nationality, Woodroffe continued to interrupt.

“Oh, Asia, they’re everywhere around here.”

He failed to answer her question and quickly moved on.

Would this off-hand comment be considered racist? Or does it toe the line of what is acceptable in the business world today?

When approached after the speech, Woodroffe’s PR refused to speak to Business Advice.

Did these recent PR gaffes cross the line?

Poundland – #ElfBehavingBad campaign

Poundland’s Christmas 2017caused the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban the offensive adverts from being reused on their social media accounts.

ASA took action after there were 85 complaints from the British public against the bargain store, and stated that the adverts were banned for “demeaning women”.

The offensive posts included an image of a toy elf holding a tea bag between its legs with a female doll lying beneath it, another showed a toy elf and a bottle of de-icer placed in front of a car windscreen.

The elf appeared to have drawn a pair of breasts in the ice and the ad was accompanied by the caption: “Oh Elf, we know it’s nippy outside but not that kind of nippy! #ElfBehavingBad”.

Although the adverts were banned they are still visible on Poundland’s social media pages.

Adidas – Boston Marathon email subject line

Last year, Adidas sent out a marketing email to customers who participated in  Boston Marathon which carried the subject line: “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”

The email was branded “insensitive” and “extremely inappropriate”, given the history of the marathon after three people were killed and over 250 injured during the 2013 Boston Marathon terror attack close to the finish line.

In a statement published on Twitter, Adidas said it was “incredibly sorry” for the “insensitive email subject line” and “deeply apologise for our mistake.”

Pepsi – Kendal Jenner campaign

The Pepsi campaign with a political message was pulled near enough straight away after a huge amount of backlash claiming it was insensitive to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Keeping up with the Kardashian’s star and model Kendal Jenner featured in the advert and walked up to a police officer in part of a protest and handed him a can of the soft drink helping to ease the tension and making the officer smile.

The advert was widely criticised for appearing to trivialise demonstrations aimed at tackling social justice causes, suggesting that protestors and police would get along better if the former were kinder.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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